For hospitals, finding staff that is experienced in data abstraction can be difficult. The shortage of trained abstractors forces many hospitals to rely on nurses or other self-taught professionals to perform abstraction. At Primaris, we consult with hospital teams and provide abstraction training and support to healthcare organizations across the country – and that is in addition to building our own team of expert abstractors. Our experience working with different provider organizations, and also growing our team of Primaris abstractors, has enabled us to define some of the qualities and skills that are necessary for performing abstraction successfully. Below are some ideal traits and skills hospitals should look for when choosing team members to groom as abstractors.
- Resourcefulness – Team members do not have to know everything there is to know about abstraction to be good at it – but they do need to be able to seek out resources and learn the things they don’t know, so abstractors need to be skilled at researching and utilizing the resources around them.
- Critical thinking – Building on the point above, abstractors need to be good problem solvers. Rules change and registries and measures are updated frequently. It is important for abstractors to be able to think critically and find solutions.
- Attention to detail – Doing abstraction well requires a strong attention to detail. Inter-Rater Reliability (IRR) review is a one of the measures used to gauge accuracy and completeness of abstraction. The goal is for abstractors to be able to achieve a high IRR score. Primaris abstractors, for example, typically average an IRR rate of at least 98 percent. A person that does not pay close attention to the details of abstraction is more likely to make errors and have a lower IRR rate. Why does this matter? It compromises the integrity of your data.
- Organization – Since accuracy is important, abstractors should be people who are extremely orderly. Abstraction work often competes with other job responsibilities, and abstractors are often pulled in many directions at once. Staff that performs abstraction should be organized and good at following processes, even when there are interruptions and other activities compete for attention.
- Ability to work independently – Often those performing abstraction have to do a lot of independent learning and forge their way on their own. A confident, self-guided individual that can work independently is a good abstractor candidate.
- Addicted to reading charts – Some nurses enjoy the challenge of reading patients and deciphering their needs through personal interaction. Others prefer studying every detail in charts to find that information. Abstractors are absorbed in charts and patient information. They need to be able to spot when key info is missing from charts, and then work with clinical staff to make sure the right information is being captured. A person that always has her nose in patients’ charts has potential for being a good abstractor.
- Exceptionally good at time management – When it comes to abstraction, one of the biggest challenges for healthcare organizations is that there is always, always, always more work to do than time to do it. It is common for hospitals to get behind on abstraction, and once charts begin to pile up it is difficult to get caught up. When filling a role of an abstractor, it is important to find someone that can work quickly, is good under pressure and is extremely good at time management.
So there you have it – the profile of a perfect data abstractor. In a perfect world, organizations would have plentiful resources to train and support abstractors. But because that is not reality, organizations need to look for individuals that fit well into abstraction roles, and then support them as much as possible.
Another option is outsourcing your data abstraction. Read, "Make a Change for the Better, Outsource Your Data Abstraction", to learn the benefits of finding a reliable partner for abstraction.